The UGA Classics in Rome Study Abroad Program, based in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The observance will include a preview lecture and reception on Oct. 4 at the Jackson Street Building and a reunion of program alumni on Oct. 5 at the Georgia Museum of Art.
Although the program has evolved over the last 50 years, it has not changed substantially from the model envisioned by its founder, classics professor Edward Best. Accompanied by his wife, Jenny, and their three children, Best took 30 UGA students to Rome in June 1970 for 10 weeks—when the university was on the quarter system—to study Greek and Roman civilization.
That first trip included two weeks in Greece, two days in the Bay of Naples to visit Pompeii and Paestum and several day trips to visit the Etruscan necropoleis of Tarquinia and Cerveteri as well as Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este on the outskirts of Rome.
The Greek portion of the program had to be cut in 1990 to keep it affordable, but the idea of a long stay in Rome, interacting with the city and learning about the foundations of Western civilization, remains at the heart of the program, according to current Director Elena Bianchelli, a senior lecturer in the classics department.
“We now have about 1,000 alumni, and meeting with them is my great pleasure and pride,” said Bianchelli. “Their stories are amazing: so many of them saw their summer in Rome as a turning point in their lives, the best decision they ever made. Most of them have gone back to Rome multiple times, and they still consider Rome their second home.”
The Oct. 5 reunion also will be an opportunity to celebrate Edward Best, who died July 25. A new scholarship named after him and his wife has been established to help students who want to participate in the program. Visit rome.uga.edu for information.